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“We Need to Be Where the Customer Is”: Toward a Sales Process That Includes Everyone

Posted By Michael J. Burke, Saturday, June 13, 2020

Sales of any kind has never been a job for the faint of heart, but like everything else it’s become far more challenging lately. Many customers have been stuck at home for months, unable to just walk into a store or even make connections with their usual sales contacts the way they normally would, from their offices and workplaces. So how and where do businesses and salespeople find them? And given these hurdles, how can they effectively influence, inform, and sell to them?

There are no easy answers, but thinking of the process holistically can help put the pieces together. That’s one of the themes that Larry Walsh, CEO and chief analyst of The 2112 Group, will be exploring in his presentation, “Making Everyone a Part of the Sales Process,” which will be livestreamed on June 25 as part of the first-ever virtual ASAP Global Alliance Summit.

A Network of Relationships

One of the key notions that Walsh is pushing is that the sales process needs to be seen less as a series of linear “handoffs” and more as a network of ongoing relationships involving different actors—in the indirect channel, three of them, to be exact.

“There’s the influencer, which is—no other way of saying it—influencing or driving consideration,” he explained in a recent conversation. “Then you have referrals, which are a step above influencers in that they will help drive consideration, [but] they will even help lead the customer right to the purchasing point. And then you have resellers, or the actual point of sales. And they’re the ones who actively engage with the customer to the sale point. We typically think of these as ‘handoffs’: once the influencer is done doing their job, they hand off and somebody else picks up the sale. Same thing with referrals—they will hand off to a salesperson, and the salesperson will then nurture them through the process. The reality is we really need to make sure that all these different actors remain persistently engaged as the customer goes through the sales funnel. That’s not really a new idea, but what really is a new idea is thinking that everyone is an influencer, and everyone has potential to refer, and everyone can actually participate in the sales process.”

Walsh maintained that we often underestimate just how many influencers are involved with our customers, or the importance of their role. The influencing itself, he said, takes place for two reasons: what he called “warm-glow altruism” and “anti-altruism.”

“Warm-glow altruism is when you do something because it makes you feel good. You want to help someone or you want to make a difference for them. And warm-glow altruism can have a benefit to you, but you’re doing things to help your customer. That’s one form of influencer. The other form is this anti-altruism, which is doing something to influence someone to buy a third-party product because there is something in it for [you]. An example of that would be, you and I have to do this meeting, so you really should be using Zoom, because Zoom is a really good platform—and oh by the way, here’s my tool that plugs into Zoom and that works. So that’s anti-altruism—you’re influencing them because it’s in your interest.”

Influencers, and Channels, Are Omnipresent

As an example of how this works in practice, Walsh pointed to the professional services marketplace on Amazon Web Services (AWS). The companies on that platform, he said, are “recommending AWS, but they don’t get compensated for that. What they do get compensated for is the services they sell around it. That’s a way of influencing the customer because it’s in your interest. You’re going to see this entire idea of making everyone a part of the sales process become more important going forward as you see more digital channels and omni-channels taking root.”

Walsh defined “omni-channels” as “a means for giving the customer the ability to have a seamless interaction with you regardless of where they are interacting with you. For instance, if I need something, and I want to buy it at Target down the street from my house, I look online: Do they have it? I want to be able to know that I can walk into the store and pick up the item—I can pay for it in advance, I can ask somebody, or access a chat bot and ask questions about it. I can scan it when I’m in the store, see if there’s a coupon available for it. I can research and compare across different platforms. That’s how omni-channel works. It’s not that you have just one channel; you have multiple channels, but the customer has a seamless experience across all of them.”

Last Mile to the Future: A Changing Channel and Evolving Ecosystems

I asked Walsh if taking this omni-channel or “get everyone involved” approach is more critical now, given the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic. He thought so, but:

“I think it’s more about the future. The pandemic made us more reliant on digital tools for research and acquisition, but I was just reading today that Macy’s reopened 450 stores, and they have higher than expected sales. Which is great, but you’re going to see that because of the pandemic experience, they’re going to make it easier to purchase online versus in-store. Amazon, for example, is looking to acquire JCPenney. Why? Because Amazon is constantly attacking the last mile. I don’t want to wait for two days to get my widget, whatever it might be: I want to get it now. I know if I just drive down to the corner to that former JCPenney store they’ll have it for me—or they’ll have it for me in a day as opposed to shipping it in two days. Certain things are going to happen as a result of this—that’s not just a B2C example, that’s going to happen across B2B channels.”

And as we move more rapidly into that future, the traditional indirect sales channel is undergoing change as well.

“It’s becoming a part of the ecosystem,” Walsh said. “I think digitalization is something that everyone has to not just give serious consideration to, they have to figure out what their digital strategy is going to be, and build out the muscle to be able to communicate effectively with customers regardless of where the customers are interacting with them. Think about this just in terms of customer service: if the customer calls you up, they can talk to somebody who can retrieve their order history, who can retrieve their trouble tickets, etc. Or they can go into a portal and get the same information themselves. They need to have these capabilities to meet the customer’s expectations. The customers want this, it’s not something that we’re trying to invent. We’re not trying to push a concept out into the world—the world’s already adopted it, it’s us trying to catch up to them.

“Here’s the thing,” he continued. “I deal with channel strategy. I help companies recognize what their best routes to market are, and how do we most effectively get to them. The biggest mistake I see companies make is they go, ‘Oh! We need partners to expand our sales and our sales coverage.’ Why is that? Partners have revenue. They have customers, therefore they have revenue, and we should be able to tap into those customers. That’s not the reason for doing this. The reason for doing it is because the partners will do something either you can’t do or you won’t do. Otherwise, you don’t have enough separation between you for justification.

“There’s a reason why we have channels,” Walsh concluded. “The traditional reason for having channels is to have a point of sale where the customer is. And the reason why we need to have omni-channels and we need to engage with everyone who has a piece of the sales process is because we need to be where the customer is.”

Tags:  2112 Group  B2B channels  channel  channel strategy  channels  ecosystems  Influencers  Larry Walsh  network  parnters  referrals  resellers  sales 

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Huawei’s Strategy for Partnering Success (Part One): Tapping into the ASAP Community’s Best Practices, Professional Development, and Tools

Posted By Genevieve Fraser, Monday, March 5, 2018
Updated: Saturday, March 3, 2018

Decades before Greg Fox, CSAP, assumed his current position as vice president of strategic alliances at Huawei Technologies, headquartered in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, he held senior strategy, channels, sales, alliance management, marketing, product management, and business development positions at Citrix, Cisco, Novell, and HPE. For the past two years, Fox has lead Huawei’s efforts to build information and communications technologies (ICT) industry-leading alliance management competencies and global partnering capabilities. Today, Huawei Technologies is the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world.

 

“Having a strategic alliance background has provided a competitive edge with prospective partners. In fact, strategic alliances are quickly becoming a core part of the Huawei culture and an embedded part of our business strategy,” Fox stated.

 

“And with Huawei’s global market leadership in key markets involving carrier, consumer, enterprise and now cloud, many companies want to do business with us for mutual business advantage. It is a nice problem to have, but that makes it ever more important that we do partnerships the right way, and we set them up for the long-term,” he explained.

 

Given the magnitude and scope of their current level of partnerships, Huawei has developed a tier-one companywide process called Manage Alliance Relationship (MAR) that focuses exclusively on managing the alliance relationship process. This includes traditional 1:1 alliances, as well as managing one to many and many to many partnerships.

 

As Huawei has adopted many of ASAP’s best practices and tools for partner evaluation, recruitment, and on-boarding, the alliance management organization has created many templates within the MAR process. These templates and tools are actively used in every current or prospective strategic partnership and have afforded Huawei a competitive edge in cultivating its growing portfolio of partnerships.

 

“We have a straightforward approach outlined by a five-step process to executing mutually profitable partnerships and as we follow this, we feel that we can improve the odds of success and ensure that all parties profit,” Fox said.

 

“The first step involves partners agreeing on a common set of objectives and a strategy for achieving them and being clear on what all sides get from the alliance. Next, partners must write out a business plan, including determining who is our customer, why will they buy from us, and what is our expected ROI [return on investment]. Third, partners must install governance structures that assign key responsibilities, clarifying who is responsible for what, and which has an identified sponsor who is senior enough to mobilize resources and change course if things go off track,” he said.

 

“Step four involves creating proper incentives for both the direct sales force and indirect channel, with compensation designed to get all parties to make the alliance a priority. And finally, every partnership should be flexible, and alliances must be reviewed quarterly to help leaders respond to changing business conditions,” Fox explained.

 

The five steps are not performed once and then set aside. Instead they are done in an iterative loop, where processes are refined, and targets regularly adjusted as needed, based on every changing competitive environment.

 

To learn more about Huawei’s partnering efforts, see Part Two of this blog as well as Genevieve Fraser’s Member Spotlight in the Q4 2017 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine. Greg Fox also co-presented, with Andrew Yeomans, CSAP, of Merck Serono, the January 18, 2018 ASAP Netcast webinar “Building the Engines of Collaboration Inside and Beyond the Borders of Mainland China.”

Tags:  alliance management  business development  channels  Cisco  Citrix  cloud  governance structures  Greg Fox  HPE  Huawei Technologies  manage alliance relationship  marketing  Novell  partnerships  product management  sales  strategic alliances  strategy 

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Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor—Effectively Employing the Breadth of People in Your Alliance

Posted By Cynthia B. Hanson, Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, September 6, 2016

To maximize the value of an alliance, it’s important to effectively employ and appreciate the full mix of participantsfrom your sidekick partner to the trainer and sponsor in the background.  That was the focus of the session “People, Process, Culture: Building a Winning Alliance Program” at the 2016 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, “Partnering Everywhere: Expert Leadership for the Eco­system,” at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland. The discussion was led by three individuals who built highly successful collaborative programs from scratch: Joe Havrilla, senior vice president and global head of business development & licensing, Bayer Pharmaceuticals; Gerry Dehkes, CSAP, global cyber ecosystem lead at Booz Allen Hamilton; David Erienborn, CSAP, director of strategic alliances at KPMG. During the session, they spent a considerable amount of time plying the question of how to create a thriving dynamic between your alliance team, partners, and even ex-partners. 

Joe: At the end of the day, the strategy is about people. Microsoft and KPMG are not going to do anything, since they do not exist other than in our heads they are not going to do anything. You only have the beginning of a strategy until you have taken your strategy from the company down to the people. People come into work not to execute a strategy; they come in with their own strategy. So how do I align their strategy to our best interests? In some cases, you also may need to work with the ex-partner.  If you understand ahead of time where you are in conflict with the other company, you can design a way of working together. 

Gerald: Here’s the approach we took, which is the secret sauce of this particular alliance program. Typically an alliance director will talk with partners and service leaders, and then bring in sales people. We realized the benefit of 10-20 alliance managerswith each trying to get to that sales forceand decided to take that part of the organization and organize it around the industry groups. Really position the alliance enablement person, and they would have only one person to go to. We found that to be very effective, those folks became part of the team. They decided strategies, winning alliance-based offers, they would always be there for that industry. That model helped us become successful. It’s that last piece that’s criticalgetting those alliances out to sales-facing people. 

David: It’s important that training people understand what they are trying to accomplish. If you can translate alliances at a company level down into the mind of the educators, and that this whole alliance is to get them to do something, they become aware of the importance of training to do something. It’s important for them to know this is the strategy. How do you set this up so they get visibility and appreciation? You need to make the training people a winner. 

Joe: You need to know the difference between sales and revenue, understand what margin is, and understand that finance people will be called on for estimates. If I include them from the beginning, I am a lot more likely to get their support when I need it. Another group that is important to your alliance are the sponsors. I’m an advocate and agent, but not the sponsor. They can bring resources to bear and spend time on building relationships. The alliance should be one of their top four priorities for their year. They have to be someone who can really step up. There aren’t any sponsor schools, they’ve never been trained to do it. We need to help sponsors understand what their job is, invest time in it, determine who can be a sponsor, and make sure they have the training to do it. 

Gerald: You need to define the elements of value that all the partners are looking for. It’s not a specific part of the agreement or financial transaction, yet it’s a strongly held expectation of the partner. If you don’t clarify that up front, you wind up being surprised. If there was an expectation that was discussed earlier, but you never codified the agreement or the people responsible for executing the agreement, then you have disconnect and conflict. It’s important that somebody is capturing the expectations. The other tool that is helpful upfront is to do a partner fit as part of due diligence. When you start with a rigorous checklist approach on partner resources, decision process, internal policies and procedures, you can mitigate conflicts down the road. 

David: Trust is predictability. I don’t trust my 15 year old to drive a car because I can’t predict. So we do a lot of trust building. As you get more of your people out there dealing with partners, you have to educate them and give them the boundary conditions, not to restrain them, but you want a consistent approach. You want enough leeway to solve problems. You don’t want to inhibit them from creativity, but you want predictability. 

Tags:  agreement  alignment  alliance team  Bayer Pharmaceuticals  CSAP  David Erienborn  Gerry Dehkes  Joe Havrilla  KPMG  sales  sponsors  strategies  strategy  Trust 

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